Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty to a white mother and a black father, Rihanna was discovered by singer/producer Evan Rogers. Rogers was a member of the hitmaking Nineties group Rhythm Syndicate and had since become well-known as a songwriter and producer. Rihanna was eventually signed to Def Jam Records (under the guidance of rap demigod Jay-Z) and immediately got to work on her debut album.
In 2005, Rihanna’s debut, Music of the Sun was released. Pon De Replay was the first single to hit the charts, and it became a Top Five smash that summer. Capitalizing on Rihanna’s island heritage, Replay was a catchy enough slice of reggae-lite, but nothing about the song suggested “superstar”. Music of the Sun was a moderate chart success, going Gold a year after release, and a second hit single, If It’s Lovin’ That You Want, followed.
Just one year later, Rihanna was reinvented as a slithering sexpot with her second effort, A Girl Like Me. Three Top Ten singles confirmed that Rihanna was an artist to watch. The Tainted Love-sampling S.O.S and the dramatic ballad Unfaithful (written by upstart singer/songwriter Ne-Yo) dominated pop and R&B radio throughout the summer, and A Girl Like Me sold more than double the amount of its predecessor.
Rihanna officially became a superstar in 2007. In collaboration with her label president, Jay-Z, Umbrella became the song of the year, shooting to #1 on the charts and winning Rihanna and Jay a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Good Girl Gone Bad, the album that featured Umbrella, continued Rihanna’s upward swing, going double-platinum and spawning an additional five Top 20 hits, including the #1 singles Take a Bow and Disturbia. The album was still in the Top 20 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart over a year after its release, and Rihanna had graduated to superstar status.
By this point, she’d also scored a modeling contract and tabloids buzzed about her rumored romance with fellow teen heartthrob Chris Brown. Rihanna’s star burned so bright at this point that she was able to lend her recognizable pipes to hits for other artists-appearing on hit singles by rock band Maroon 5 and rap star T.I. With no signs of stopping anytime soon, Rihanna has officially become one of the decade’s most successful and recognizable singing stars.